The world recently lost the great American poet John Ashbery, who passed away on September 3, 2017. As the author of more than twenty books of poetry, he won nearly every American award for poetry (including a Pulitzer) and a variety of international ones, too. For a while he was the poet laureate of New York State, the Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College.
Sounds like John Ashbery was a pretty serious dude.
He was. He was also a pretty funny one, too. Even when being serious. Enjoy a few snippets from the beginning and the end of his poem: “My Philosophy of Life.” If you want the middle, you’re going to have to buy one of his books.
Just when I thought there wasn’t room enough
for another thought in my head, I had this great idea—
call it a philosophy of life, if you will.
it involved living the way philosophers live,
according to a set of principles.
OK, but which ones?
I won’t be embarrassed by my friends’ dumb remarks,
or even my own, though admittedly that’s the hardest part,
as when you are in a crowded theater and something you say
riles the spectator I front of you, who doesn’t even like the idea
of two people near him talking together.
got to be flushed out so the hunters can have a crack at him –
this thing works both ways, you know.
You can’t always
be worrying about others and keeping track of yourself
at the same time.
That would be abusive, and about as much fun
as attending the wedding of two people you don’t know
Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had in the gaps between ideas.
That’s what they’re made for! Now I want you to go out there
and enjoy yourself, and yes, enjoy your philosophy of life too.
They don’t come along every day.
Look out! There’s a big one.
(Photo from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ashbery)